Technically, President Obama is off the campaign trail Wednesday. But really, he isn’t. When the president steps out to view storm damage in New Jersey with Republican Gov. Chris Christie – keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention just two months ago – it will be politics by other means.
And it will be pure gold, for two reasons.
First, Mr. Obama gets the obvious photo opportunity of himself acting as commander in chief, in charge, projecting calm, reiterating the message he has put out since superstorm Sandy began to loom: We’re here to help. Whatever you need from Washington, let us know.
The Obama-Christie photo op will be the picture of the day, not Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s three campaign events in Florida.
This assumes that Governor Christie doesn’t blow his stack and tell Obama that Washington has done a terrible job. With the outspoken Christie, you never know. But so far, Christie has been Obama’s best friend during a catastrophe that has hit the New Jersey coast particularly hard.
On Tuesday, Christie did the rounds on morning TV, praising Obama’s performance. “It’s been very good working with the president and his administration,” Christie said on MSNBC. “It’s been wonderful.”
Christie has also made clear that politics is the least of his concerns. When asked in a briefing Tuesday with reporters about how the storm might affect Election Day, he said: “I don’t give a [expletive] about Election Day.”
But here’s the second reason the Obama-Christie team-up, six days before Election Day, is worth its weight in gold to both men’s political futures: Voters – especially independent voters – want more bipartisanship, polls show. This presidential campaign has been the most toxic in memory, but the Obama-Christie photo op is living evidence that when the going gets tough, members of competing parties really can work together.
Of course, we’re not talking about the "fiscal cliff." It’s easy to put politics aside when matters of life and death are on the line. But voters may find some comfort that there are limits to the political gamesmanship that infuses Washington.
No less a partisan than Republican commentator Dick Morris commented recently on voters’ desire for bipartisanship.
“While we professionals are trying to win the war of Democrats vs. Republicans and blue vs. red,” Mr. Morris wrote Oct. 6 on the website RealClearPolitics, “the voters just want the war to end and the parties to come to an agreement, guided by the verdict they will deliver on Election Day.”